Chrysler temporarily slows minivan production at Windsor plant

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Is it a sign of these austere times or just a speed bump in the way of Chrysler Group's longstanding bestselling minivan duo? According to Automotive News the automaker's Windsor, Ontario assembly plant has temporarily slowed production of its Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans in order "to align production with market demand," said Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.

Chrysler will cut the plants three shifts from eight to four hours apiece, thanks to 15-percent fewer sales through January and February of this year. Town and Country sales were only off by one-percent, but Grand Caravan sales fell by 26-percent alone during the same time period. This leaves an inventory of 18,547 unsold Grand Caravans and 24,713 Town and Country vans, which equals a 43-day inventory of the former and 69-day supply of the latter.

"We also look at anticipated future demand and make adjustments accordingly," added Tinson. "No sense running full speed now, then have a lot of vehicles sitting around a few months down the line. We believe we have satisfactory inventory to meet current demand and, therefore, have decided to reduce hours in order to ensure a balance."

Chrysler had hoped to boost production through its strategic minivan partnership with Volkswagen, but Routan sales have been much flatter than those of Chrysler Group's own vans. So far this year Chrysler's Windsor facility hasn't built a single Routan, VW merely selling the inventory it already has in stock.

While many question how much longer Volkswagen will continue on with its Routan, one of the two Chrysler vans will definitely be discontinued after the 2014 model year. Chrysler is expected to replace either the Town and Country or the Grand Caravan with a seven-seat crossover SUV in similar fashion to how Ford exchanged its Freestar minivan with the Flex and then Explorer seven-occupant crossovers, and GM mothballed its numerous Chevy Venture-based minivans for its lineup of Traverse-based crossovers. The only difference, and a very important one, is that Chrysler won't give up on the minivan segment entirely like it's big three rivals.

Common sense would see Chrysler drop its Town and Country at the start of the 2015 model year, because Dodge already has a very successful seven-passenger crossover SUV in the Journey. Dodge also sells the Durango, a seven-passenger SUV that has been made less truck-like in recent years by adopting the Jeep Grand Cherokee's unibody design. Chrysler, on the other hand, only has the Town and Country for family hauling duties, so a large crossover to do battle with Buick's Enclave, Ford's Flex, Toyota's Highlander and Honda's Pilot, to name a few, let alone Infiniti's QX60 (nee JX35) and other large premium SUVs, would fit into Chrysler's slightly more upscale lineup nicely. The Grand Caravan has continually been the biggest seller of the two Chrysler Group vans as well, and that will likely be the ultimate deciding factor.

While we probably won't know anything about the Chrysler Town and Country's fate for some time, full production of Chrysler Group's two minivans will resume again on March 18.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Minivan, Chrysler, Dodge, 2013, Town and Country, Grand Caravan,

Organizations: Town and Country

Geographic location: Windsor

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